Breast cancer is caused by a number of hormonal, environmental and lifestyle factors. There’s nothing you can do to eliminate your risk of breast cancer, but the following factors may have some influence on your risk:
Alcohol: Drinking alcohol, even just one glass a day, raises the risk of developing breast cancer.
Birth control pills: Research indicates that taking birth control pills may increase your risk of developing breast cancer. Talk with your health care provider about the risks and benefits of birth control pills.
Breast feeding: While there’s not a strong link, some studies suggest breast feeding may slightly lower breast cancer risk.
Breast implants: There is no association between breast implants and breast cancer.
Childbearing: Women who have children before age 30 have a slightly lower risk of developing breast cancer.
Diet: More research is needed to determine the role of diet in developing breast cancer. Some clinical studies show that certain types of fat, such as saturated fat, increase your risk.
Environment: There’s no clear link between environmental pollutants and breast cancer. Ongoing research into the effects of exposures in our environment will help us better understand their effects on our health.
Exercise: The American Cancer Society states that “vigorous physical activity and maintenance of a healthy body weight” are associated with lower breast cancer risk.
Smoking: The link between cigarette smoking and the development of breast cancer has not been firmly established. With that said, smoking negatively impacts your health and increases the risk for many cancers as well as heart disease. If you smoke, quit.
Weight: The more overweight a woman is, especially after menopause, the greater her risk for developing breast cancer. Talk with your health care provider about weight concerns.
Breast cancer screening guidelines
For women who are not at high risk for developing breast cancer, we recommend these breast screening guidelines:
Women ages 40 and older should have annual screening mammograms.
Screenings should continue as long as a woman is in good health.
Women 75 years and older, in good health, should be screened every other year.
Hereditary breast cancer risk assessment
We offer cancer risk assessment and genetic counseling for women with cancer syndromes such as hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome (BRCA1 and BRCA2), Lynch syndrome, and others. The information is used to create a personalized medical management plan so you can be proactive about future screenings and reduce your risk of cancer.
You may benefit from meeting with a genetic provider if you or a close family member meets any of the following criteria:
Diagnosed with breast cancer at a young age (before age 50)
A man who was diagnosed with breast cancer
Diagnosed with ovarian, fallopian tube, or primary peritoneal cancer
Diagnosed with colorectal cancer at a young age (before age 50)
Diagnosed with uterine cancer at a young age (before age 50)
Diagnosed with multiple colon polyps over their lifetime
Diagnosed with multiple cancer diagnoses over their lifetime (for example, having a personal history of both breast cancer and ovarian cancer)
Have multiple close blood relatives with the same type of cancer or related cancers
Have a close family member with a cancer-related gene mutation (for example, BRCA1 mutation)
If you have concerns about your personal cancer risks or a family history of cancer, talk with your physician about a referral to our genetic counseling services. You may also call 206-223-6193 with questions.
Make an appointment
To schedule a screening mammogram, find a location near you and call for an appointment. A referral is not necessary.